Israel retires its US Patriots. Low efficiency?

10:37 08.05.2024 •

Israel will soon eliminate the entire Patriot air defense system.
Photo: ‘Times of Israel’

It is unlikely Israel's Patriots will head for the Scrap Heap, but they are being phased out, notes Stephen Bryen, a former US Deputy Under Secretary of Defense.

While Europe is in the process of setting up a production line to manufacture GEM-T missiles for European Patriot batteries, Israel has decided to take its Patriot systems out of service. Do the Israelis know something the Europeans do not?

The GEM-T, or Guidance-enhanced tactical missiles, are part of the Patriot PAC-2 air defense system. This missile can intercept aircraft, drones,helicopters and some tactical missiles. It may be able to hit glide bombs. 

In the recent Iranian attack against Israel, Israeli Patriot batteries are credited with nine shootdowns. Israel has not specified what was intercepted.

Since 2022 European countries have been ordering GEM-2 interceptors, initially from Raytheon (now called RTX). 

The initial customers will be Romania, Netherlands, Spain and Germany. The four customers will purchase up to 1,000 missiles from this source and additional missiles from the United States. RTX currently produces around 20 missiles per month and is ramping up to 30 per month by 2027. Even with COMLOG, it will take years to fulfill the missile orders.

There are at least four other European customers for GEM-2 including Italy and many foreign customers including Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Israel says that the PAC-2 system was hard to maintain and very expensive compared to local alternatives. While not directly criticizing either PAC-2 or GEM-T, some Israelis suggested that the system was not very effective against various missile threats. 

Israel plans to decommission its Patriot batteries by the end of June, meaning that these missiles could easily find homes elsewhere in the near term. Israel also could supply its GEM-T missiles to "local" customers including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Another possibility would be to transfer Israeli Patriot batteries to Jordan to bolster Jordan's air defenses. Jordan supported Israel by shooting down a number of drones  headed for Israeli territory during Iran's attack on Israel on April 13th. 

In Europe where air defenses are not yet integrated and where interceptor stocks are low, the retired Israeli systems can still play a useful role. Europe has a long way to go before it has adequate air defense capabilities.


…Even the Israeli press writes about the low effectiveness of American air defense…


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